It took a little while before James Harden picked up his shooting this season. The star guard, though, was never able to get into a grove last year against Nebraska.
Harden, one of the nation’s hottest players, looks to help No. 19 Arizona State avoid another letdown against undefeated Nebraska as the teams meet Sunday.
Harden has earned Pac-10 player of the week honors two straight times, averaging 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists on the season. The star sophomore had 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Sun Devils (6-1) to an 81-60 win over Jackson State on Thursday night.
“I’m starting to get back into a groove,” said Harden, who has scored 86 points in his last 68 minutes going back to the second half of Arizona State’s loss to Baylor on Nov. 28. “I’m playing a lot better and obviously shooting the ball real well. It’s just being in attack mode, being more aggressive.”
Harden was 7-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He’s tough to stop when penetrating, but lately he’s been outstanding from long range too, making 14 of his last 18 3-point attempts.
Early on, Harden was struggling from the perimeter, making two of his first 14 attempts from beyond the arc.
“The first couple games, it was minor adjustments with my form,” Harden said. “All of them felt real good, just rattled in and out, or some of them were at the end of the shot clock. I wasn’t really worried.”
Harden made both of his 3-point attempts against Nebraska last season, but finished with eight points and turned the ball over a career-high seven times as Arizona State lost 62-47 on Dec. 2, 2007.
Unlike Jackson State, the Cornhuskers (6-0) won’t be a cakewalk for the Sun Devils.
“They killed us last year at their house,” Harden said. “They played pretty well. We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder against them.”
Nebraska will be trying to open the season with seven straight wins for the first time since the 1992-93 season. The Cornhuskers have been outstanding on defense, holding opponents to 51.5 points per game and 37.3 percent shooting.
No team has reached 60 points against Nebraska this season.
The Cornhuskers were dominating again on defense against Alabama State on Wednesday but also had their best offensive game, reaching a season high in points en route to an 80-51 win.
Steve Harley scored 16 points to lead four Huskers in double figures. The senior guard has picked up the pace after scoring a combined 13 points in his first two games, averaging 16.0 points and shooting 54.3 percent from the floor since.
Toney McCray had 12 points, while Ryan Anderson and Sek Henry added 11 each. Henry is second Nebraska in scoring, averaging 9.5 points per game, and tops the team with 1.8 steals a contest.
Anderson had 14 points and seven rebounds versus Arizona State last season. Harley, meanwhile, was held to six points on 1-for-5 shooting.
The Sun Devils, who have split six all-time games with the Cornhuskers, failed to put a player in double figures in last season’s game.